Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Food industry being cautious about nanotech and public backlash

According to a recent Lux Research report, the U.S. food and drink industry has been restricting their use of nano materials largely to packaging, food safety, and other applications, such antimicrobial sensors and printable RFID tags.

What is particularly interesting is that Lux Research identifies fears about the potential unknown health risks of nanotechnology as one of the key reasons for the somewhat restrictive use of nano in this area so far. If their assessments are accurate, we may be witnessing an interesting spin-off of the precautionary principle, where the possibility of a public opinion backlash is enough to make companies delay the implementation of new technologies until concerns – justified or not – can be addressed.

Here are some excerpts from a piece, summarizing the report:

Safety concerns and a need for regulation before products are introduced are some of the constraints that could hold the industry back from exploiting the technology with more gusto.


Lux Research senior analyst Mark Bünger, one of the authors of a new report into the technology, says the food and drink industry will benefit through relatively mundane improvements in food cost, packaging, and safety, rather than from direct product applications.


"There are real risks and perceived risks," he said. "Even in nanofoods, the perceived risks are much larger than the actual risks. Companies need to do their labwork and be completely transparent with the results – that's the only way to work."

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